Prez Candidates eye New Jersey

January 31, 2008 1:18:08 PM PST
When New Jerseyans go to vote Tuesday to decide Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, half the ballot will be obsolete.

And it's too late for those who already voted by absentee ballot for dropped-out candidates.

Six candidates names will still appear on the ballot; they withdrew after the ballots were already printed.

More than 20 New Jersey supporters of Republican Rudy Giuliani threw support to Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"It's going to be one family working together for a common cause," said Ocean County Republican Party Chairman George Gilmore, who had led Giuliani's New Jersey campaign but is now helping McCain.

Democratic Senate President Richard J. Codey, who had led Edwards' New Jersey effort, endorsed Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

"We need a politics of cooperation and hope focused on what we have in common as Americans, not what divides us," said Codey, D-Essex. "Sen. Obama has the unique ability to rise above the politics of fear and division to bring the change we desperately need."

Peter Woolley, a Fairleigh Dickinson University political scientist, said some people may knowingly vote for bygone candidates just to make a point.

"No doubt some hard core supporters of the dropouts will want to express their attachment to their favorite candidate one last time for emphasis or stubbornness," he said. "A few voters may be confused, but most voters go into the booth knowing which campaigns are still seriously contending and which ones are not."

He doesn't expect former candidates to affect Tuesday's outcome.

"Voters go to the polls, after all, to have an influence on the outcome," Woolley said. "So they'll choose a team in contention. After all, how many people will be rooting for the Eagles in this Sunday's Super Bowl?"

Other dropouts on the ballot include Democrats Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson and Joseph Biden and Republican Fred Thompson.

David Wald, spokesman for Attorney General Anne Milgram, said people who cast absentee ballots for dropouts cannot get their ballots back for a second shot.

"People who sent in absentee ballots took a risk," Woolley said.

In New Jersey, any voter can vote by absentee ballot without a specific reason and may apply in person to their county clerk for an absentee ballot until 3 p.m. on Monday.

Among those moving from Giuliani to McCain were 13 county Republican Party chairmen who vowed to rally voters to McCain; the presidential contender plans to visit New Jersey on Monday.

But Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, who is leading Mitt Romney's New Jersey effort, predicted many Giuliani voters would go to Romney and questioned whether Thursday's McCain endorsements mattered.

"Let's face it," Kyrillos said. "Their support for Rudy didn't mean all that much, so I don't know what it's going to mean for Sen. McCain."

Obama also received campaign help Thursday from former New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, but Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Clinton backer, predicted Clinton will win the state.

"At the end of the day I think it's going to go to experience and a tested record, and that's what distinguishes the two candidates right now," Watson Coleman said.

On Monday, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist and son of the former U.S. senator from New York, plans to visit a Passaic house party held by Clinton supporters.

Other Clinton supporters plan to gather at 8 p.m. Monday at Burlington County College's Enterprise Center to participate in a national webcast with Clinton and supporters from 20 other states. Clinton will anchor the meeting from New York.